Novenas and the Election Novena Pray The Election Novena The 2008 Presidential election is fast approaching and debates among Catholics about how to vote are just as heated as anywhere else. As November 7 draws nearer, it is important to remember that the First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” but does not claim moral issues – which affect us all, regardless of faith – are not political issues. It can be especially difficult in this modern society to connect our faith to social and political actions but as Catholics it is something we cannot give up on. In light of the upcoming election, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have asked the faithful to prepare for the election and pray for our country by praying the Novena for Faithful Citizenship, also referred to as an Election Novena. The Novena can be prayed alone or in a community setting and emphasizes the dignity of life, justice, and peace. Citizens can begin praying October 26, nine days before the election, or can adapt the time to best fit the community’s schedule. One can also begin praying the novena right away, and repeat the nine-day cycle until the date of the election. The Novena is available online at http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org/resources/podcasts. You can download or listen online to the daily podcasts (which include the prayers and daily reading, along with music) or simply download the PDF of the novena to print out and pray. If you are looking for other resources as the election grows near, check out the Voter's Guide For Serious Catholics or Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s new book, Render Unto Caesar. You can also check out our recent posting on The Importance of Voting Catholic and read a little more about Render Unto Caesar there. What Is A Novena? So what exactly is a novena? Is it just another word for prayer? Not quite. The word novena comes from the Latin novem, meaning nine, and it is a devotional practice set over a period of nine days; it can also be set over a period of nine weeks, with one day each week set aside for the devotion. Tradition holds that the novena is based upon the nine days between the Ascension of Our Lord and Pentecost. The nine days the Apostles and Mary spent praying in the upper room are considered the first novena. The origin date of the novena as we use it today is not known but the practice of praying novenas grew considerably in popularity in the 17th century. The novena is a devotion, and not simply a prayer, because it may include one prayer with intentions, repeated for the nine days, or it may also include two or three prayers as well as a reading for each day. Novenas traditionally are said to honor a specific facet of the life of Mary or Jesus, or a particular saint. The prayers alone are suitable for praying a novena, but it is preferable to include attendance to daily Mass and to receive the Holy Eucharist daily as part of the devotion. Novenas may be said privately, or they may be public, typically said in churches in preparation for a feast day. Many novenas can be prayed at anytime, while some, such as the election novena or the Divine Mercy novena, are associated with particular feast days or times of the year. If you have a particular intention to pray for, chances are you will be able to find a suitable novena to pray. However, some novenas are more popular and common than others. Marian novenas are a favorite of the faithful, such as the scripture-based novena, Mary’s Fiat. Naturally, there are many, many beautiful and faithful novenas to honor Jesus, such as the novena to the Infant of Prague and Blessed Sacrament novenas. A new favorite is the Divine Mercy Novena, prayed commonly in the nine days from Easter to Divine Mercy Sunday (also available in 100 packs for church, school, or other large group settings). If you are new to praying novenas, you may want to check out 30 Favorite Novenas or Favorite Novenas to the Saints (also available in Spanish) to begin with some of the favorite, timeless novenas of the Catholic faith. Click here to check out our entire selection of novena books!